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Meet Dava Newman, space fashion designer

Dava Newman will be the keynote speaker at the CSEM Business day in Basel on November 12. As a kid, she was mesmerized by the idea that human beings could set foot on the Moon. Now she’s designing the next generation of NASA spacesuits for the Moon and beyond. A groundbreaker in many ways, Newman is probably one of today’s most awe-inspiring aerospace engineers and explorers. Here are her career highlights in five key dates.

1964 - Dava Newman was born in Helena, Montana, which is also dubbed the Big Sky Country. “I remember watching multiple Moon landings on TV and being fascinated that human beings could actually be walking on the Moon that I saw from my backyard,” she recalls on the NASA website.

The 1980s - In college, Newman was among the few women to take science and engineering classes. None of her professors was female. One thing was clear though: “I knew I wanted to be a rocket scientist.” Newman earned a B.S. in aerospace engineering from the University of Notre Dame. In 1992, she completed her PhD in aerospace biomedical engineering at the MIT, where she has worked ever since.

The late 1990s - Dava Newman and her team started to build the BioSuit, an enhanced version of the Apollo-era spacesuits, which applied pressure directly to the skin and reduced body mass. With the first journey to Mars targeted in 2030, they aimed to create a more flexible and comfortable spacesuit. Newman also wanted a suit that could fit women, as NASA’s current EMUs (Extravehicular Mobility Unit) were too big for her. Newman called the BioSuit “the world’s smallest spacecraft” because it was equipped with a whole life-support system squeezed around the astronaut. She got considerable inspiration from not just science and engineering, but also arts and design. From sailing oceans to flying in space, Newman has carried out a wide range of experiments and ground-based simulations. “Exploration of the solar system teaches us most about ourselves here on Earth,” she adds.

2015 - Newman became NASA deputy administrator under the Barack Obama administration. She was the first female engineer appointed to this position. “I’m very excited to be at NASA,” said Newman at the time. “I’m looking forward to being a part of the agency’s work to expand humanity’s reach into space, advance our journey to Mars and strengthen America’s leadership here at home.”

2024 - NASA aims to send its mission to the Moon’s south pole by 2024. It’s part of Newman’s goal to send at least one female astronaut under the Artemis program. NASA unveiled two brand-new spacesuits this week for the mission designed to be worn by the first woman to work on the Moon. The xEMU suit (Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit), designed for spacewalks, will protect the astronauts from radiation, extreme temperatures and micrometeoroids.

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